Over the course of the 'evolution' of the graphics accelerator, what is both provided by and expected from it has changed somewhat. From the offset, there was of course the issue of frame rates, something which even now remains atop the list of things someone will look at when purchasing a graphics card. Games grow more demanding, graphics cards get more powerful to catch up. Or, is it the other way around? Graphics cards are without doubt a driving force in computing technology, introducing new features for upcoming games to exploit, and even to the point where the rest of a computer's hardware needs upgrading to keep up.
Currently, the power of dual core remains untouched by games, though this won't be the case forever. For now, at least, that leaves us with a need for single core CPUs with enough processing power to keep a game engine feeding the graphics card. We've seen a lot of evidence of CPU-limited games recently, especially with the sheer power of the top-most graphics cards.
It's not purely about frame rates, of course. Image quality is equally if not more important. We want the most eye candy we can get from our games, without any stutter. Even that will leave a top notch graphics card sat asking for more to do, however.
So, here I sit with the first of two graphics card reviews from me, and this is a GeForce 7800 GTX from yet another AIB (add-in-board) partner of NVIDIA's. Given that we've already brought you an in-depth look at the 7800 GTX, it gives me a chance to look at other aspects of a product and also put a different perspective on things.
After forking out a fair amount for a top of the line graphics card, you might find yourself with little left to upgrade the rest of your system. I can vouch for that, sat here with an Athlon 64 3200+, overclocked to 2.55GHz to give it half a chance of keeping up. 1GiB of RAM used to sound like a lot, but it seems 2GiB is the new in-thing. Then of course there's monitor resolution. With the massive shift from CRT to TFT, native resolutions have become an issue. Few people have a TFT which supports 1600x1200, but whatever the native res of your screen is, you're going to want all of your games to be playable at it.
With all that in mind, today is about not just the card, but the bundle, and also we'll take a look at what you can get out of a GeForce 7800 GTX on a "good, but could do better" system.